Ages 6 months to 5 years get approval
Children between 6 months and 5 years can now be vaccinated against COVID. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for these children on June 17.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed up the next day with their own recommendation in favor of both vaccines.
The Pfizer vaccine was already authorized for individuals as young as 5, and the FDA decision expands it to children starting at 6 months. The Moderna vaccine had previously been authorized for people 18 and above. The new authorization extends the approval for children from 6 months through age 17.
Both vaccines were expanded to cover young children under the FDA’s emergency-use authorization. That includes a rigorous analysis of safety and effectiveness, according to the FDA.
“COVID is still very much with us, so this will help protect our littlest ones and further contribute to reduced disease activity in the community,” Okanogan County Health Officer James Wallace said.
The two vaccines, which are given in lower doses than the adult formulations, have different administration protocols for children. For children 6 months through 4 years, the Pfizer vaccine is given in three doses — the first two, three weeks apart, and the third, at least eight weeks later. The Moderna vaccine for individuals 6 months to 17 years is given in two doses, one month apart.
In Okanogan County, vaccines for children from 6 months to 5 years will be administered by pediatricians and primary care providers, Wallace said. Both Family Health Centers in Twisp and Methow Valley Clinic in Winthrop are expected to provide the vaccines. North Valley Hospital in Tonasket also plans to offer the vaccines.
The clinics will get supplies directly from the state and have already placed their orders, but they don’t have the vaccine yet, Wallace said. “We expect enough vaccines to meet initial demand, and that supply will continue to increase in the coming days and weeks,” state Secretary of Health Umair Shah said.
If demand is high enough, Okanogan County Public Health, Family Health Centers and Aero Methow Rescue Service will most likely collaborate to offer vaccination events, Wallace said.
The FDA found different rates of protection against COVID infection, depending on the vaccine and age group. For some ages, there wasn’t enough data to quantify the protection the vaccines provide against infection with COVID, the agency said.
Although children typically don’t get as sick with COVID as adults do, the disease can still be serious, deadly or cause long-term effects in children, according to the Washington Department of Health.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which evaluates vaccines for Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California, concluded that the benefits of completing either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series substantially outweigh any known or likely risks for their age group. Immunization is expected to reduce serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID in young children, the work group said.